Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Open Letter to Copyright Enforcers

Dear Copyright Enforcers,
That's right. I'm talking to you. EMI, RIAA, MPAA,UMG, etc. I'm going to straight out say it: you are idiots. In your process of enforcing copyright laws on file-sharing sites and sites like YouTube and Facebook, you have shot yourselves in the foot. In today's world of P2P networks and sites like the Pirate Bay and Mininova, traditional copyright law is extremely ineffective. Anyone with access to a computer can upload hundreds of thousands of millions of copyrighted audio, movies, software, etc., all with the click of a mouse. You cannot just demand all of the music and films off these sites. There's just too many torrents to track and too many people downloading them around the world, and since no world state exists (I know it's hard to believe the whole world isn't America), copyright laws are different, which is why the Pirate Bay is legal in Sweden.
Now, I'm not saying that you should get rid of copyright all together. Artists should be able to take credit and get money from their work. After all, how will they afford that van? What I propose is to change conventional copyright law so artists can still make a considerable amount of money of it, while fans and the audience can use the music for videos, projects, or just plain sharing it with other people because they think it is cool. Without the audience, no musician would ever be successful. So why do keep them from enjoying the music to the fullest extent?
Because you are a bunch of greedy bastards. Instead of caring about the quality or interestingness of a song, you only care about how much money a song will make. Since Bittorrent and P2P networks share copyrighted music for free, you go all crazy over it not because of the artist's intellectual rights, but because of how much money you lost. Copyright is really not a tool to give an artist credit for their work anymore; it's a tool so the record company can gain a bucketload of money if a song becomes popular.
One thing you fail to realize is that people still use legitimate services to buy music and movies. A large percent of the world population still use iTunes, 7digital, Amazon and plain old brick-and-mortar stores to buy music and movies legitimately put out there by companies such as yourselves. Just because copyrighted music is being put out there on file-sharing sites, that doesn't mean you're broke. The record industry still has tons of money in the bank. As I said before, copyright has become a tool so you can gain massive amounts of money from a song, not to protect artist's intellectual rights.
Now, I propose a way for copyright to really become a way to defend an artist's intellectual property instead of a way to make more money than you need to. Actually, it is already here. It's called Creative Commons. Now, I know most record companies shudder at the thought of something like Creative Commons, but it can actually work to your advantage. If regular copyright law had options for copyright licenses like Creative Commons, like choosing the level of copyright to enforce on an artist's work, you could spread a band's music through cool videos and films, and people would be more compelled to buy it. Also, if you allowed a band's music to be used in another work of art, many people would benefit.
Now, I know that most bands can't afford to license their work under Creative Commons. Even though many bands are hopping on the DIY train, a large amount of bands still work for a record label, which means they are bound to government copyright law, which is extremely restrictive. Also, Creative Commons licenses have only been around since 2002, so it still hasn't reached it's full potential. But, if you change government copyright law to resemble Creative Commons, it will help you substantially in the future.
And then when you get past the copyright issue, you still have illegal file-sharing. No matter how you approach it, there is and will be forever on the internet people illegally sharing music, films, software, etc. It's a fact. However, just like Creative Commons, you can use Bittorrent and P2P networks to your advantage.
Say, for example, you are Modest Mouse's record label and you are about to release their new album. You want to generate more interest in it than there already is. You have the idea to release a promo single of one of the best tracks from the album. If you post a free download of the promo on The Pirate Bay or Mininova, people will be more compelled to buy a copy of the album from iTunes or their local record store because they heard a track from the album already. You are actually not losing money; you can use it to generate an audience and in return, people will buy it.
So, as you companies can see, radical copyright laws and file-sharing are actually good things. They can be used to give artists a fair amount of credit for their work, while you can rake in cash from generating a fanbase of people to buy an album by releasing a song from an upcoming album. It's a win-win-win situation. Artists can get credit for their work while raking in a lot of money, record companies can make a whole truckload of money by using file-sharing, and the audience can enjoy music they like without fear of getting tracked down by the government or record companies. So, I hope you know see the possibilities of the Creative Commons and file-sharing.